1. Poor thing, one says, did you see the fear in her at 4:54? But that is a different video.
In this video, the famous Egyptian bellydancer Fifi Abdo dances up against the camera, on a table, the long room of revelers and revelers’ limbs behind her. Their arms looks like snakes. The party looks like a party of Fifi Abdo in a dress against a scene of snakes. She tosses her long thick hair. She leans down, and there is her bosom. Fifi Abdo is famous for wearing loose bras so that her bosom will undulate. She is famous for fanning incense up her legs in Cairo hotels.
Fifi Abdo rolls around on what seems to be a blue table. She stands, again, tosses her hair. She sits and leans back. She tosses more hair. She smiles and is not scared as she often is or joking as she also often is in these videos, these hundreds of them, the ones on which the people write in Arabic, the people write in English:
Sex or she is going to hell or fifi I love you or godtankyou Or MY TRUE LOVE
Fifi Abdo is leaning forward, tossing her hair. She almost disappears from the frame. She disappears under her hair. The camera pulls back and what we see is a small gym, and what she is doing is the splits, and what she is doing the splits on is a circular, blue, gridded mat upon a white platform. This is the sort of mat upon which men might wrestle. There is a scoreboard above her. There are the tops of clapping hands. The camera, now turned to the crowd, focuses on a big man with an afro and a plaid newsboy cap. He has blue scarves tied to his suspenders, his white pants jacked up to his ribs, but he jumps and jumps in time to the music. His face is straight, sometimes grimacing. Behind the jumping big man, a smaller man stands on a table: the smaller man lifts a stick and a bottle. Fifi spins and spins. She wears golden slippers and bicycle shorts. The table is littered with vague litter. Fifi is not smiling. We only see her feet. We only see her frown. We only see her shadow. We only see her shadow behind the blurry heads of two ecstatic, head-bobbing men. One smokes a cigarette, and the smoke floats over Fifi Abdo’s dancing legs. Fifi Abdo looks breathless. She looks, when she falls on all fours on the table, as if she is about to collapse. What she is really doing is dragging herself. What she is really doing is standing up again, on the table, up next to the camera, her face and bosom open to us again, while the party snakes behind her, where men in their bathrobes chase women in sequins, where big men still dance, where a man in a straightjacket is cross-eyed and snaking his arms, where big women hit big men with dolls made of white towels, where a man in his pajamas and an ascot paints at an easel, where a confused woman claps wearing pearls.
2. A child rises from the carpeted floor. She reaches into the air, then hugs her own body, then bends her arms above her head. Behind her is the screen television which shows nothing but the color blue. Also behind this child is an empty pink doll buggy and a silver boom box with a vague red light indicating that it the boom box is on. A stout, faceless figure in a gray bathrobe quickly moves past the open door. As the child bends at the waist in time to the music, I see the last of the figure’s shadows. The child almost falls as she moves, in her dance, toward a cabinet of puzzles and board games. She shakes at the end flourish of the song, then giggles. A man’s voice says something, but I don’t understand what.
3. Two women watch this dance. One has a gray felt hat. One has block-heeled black boots and a canvas bag. A third woman with dark hair eventually kneels in the aisle between the two other women, and periodically, the tip of a long lens rises above her head. This is a church or a hospital or a school or a gym in a church or a hospital or a school, and in this place, with these women, a fourth woman, dressed in an oversized black t-shirt, grabs a paint brush from one of four easels. After painting at the air with it, she falls to the floor. She is often falling to the floor. She slides under one of four easels and opens her legs into a V-shape and places her hands at the V-shape’s center.
The dancer slides from under one easel, rises, and hugs the backs of the painting on a second easel. She is leaping and spinning, almost stumbling. She is pulling at her hair and flipping her hair and running between easels and behind the easels and in front of the easels until she collapses, in an imprecise fetal position, on the white hard floor at the center of every easel. The dancer is bending at the waist: she is hopping and flapping again, her arms like wings but resembling nothing that resembles flight.
There is a handwritten sign behind the collapsing dancer. It says:
“THIS PER SON.”
4. In front of a large, blind-covered window of a suburban home is a Christmas tree. The home has walls the color of desert camouflage and floors made of synthetic wood. The tree has been topped with a golden angel and wrapped with golden ropes. In front of this tree in front of the window, three teenage boys, two of them wearing stocking caps, dance in the manner of corpses.
5. I see so much green outside that patio door. On the television screen in the background, a photo floats, then diminishes: the photo on the television is of an empty apartment’s interior (this apartment), then a woman (this dancer), pointing a finger or crossing her arms. There’s a man.. He wears a thick gold necklace. Like all photos on this television, he disappears. All the while in this dark apartment full of mostly the asemic and the inferred, the shadowy figure of the dancer does a skillful reject, skipping backwards, moving nowhere.
6. Three women enter a store. Three other women enter a store. The three women on an escalator see the three other women on the escalator. All of the women are wearing t-shirts. The women are wearing baseball caps, and one of these women meets another of these women in the aisles of the store. On the shelves are cans of vegetables. On the shelves are small plastic cups filled with fruits. The women mimic yelling. The women point their fingers. The women move their rib-cages in circles. The women mimic punching. The women mimic pulling the baseball caps off off heads.
Then one woman actually takes another woman’s baseball cap. Now she has two caps. She runs, then runs up an escalator. She sucks in her lips. She looks both scared and satisfied. She meets another woman in another aisle. This woman is wearing a t-shirt that says “I love my ghetto-blaster.” This is in an aisle with books on the right side of it and magazines on the left. A security guard — headless in a frame which also includes an aislecap of grapefruit juice — motions towards the floor. The women, one of whom is wearing a t-shirt that says “Hip-hop,” run toward the automatic door. Two children watch out the open window of a mini-van. The women, now outside the store, slide from side to side on the pavement. The two children watch some more.
You can see a styro-foam drink cup with a straw.
You can see orange and pink zinnias.
You can see that it has recently rained.
One of the women throws the baseball cap. In another scene, a girl, maybe twelve years old, picks up the baseball cap and exchanges it with her own. She smiles. She puts it on her head. In another scene, a woman sees the girl’s baseball cap. She smiles. She puts it on her head. Another woman, with a long brown braid, begins to dance at the woman who is wearing the girl’s baseball cap. This dance is like flirtation. This new woman takes the cap, and smiles, and puts it on her head. She sees the twelve year old girl who is wearing the other cap. The twelve year old girl smiles and points at the cap she took. The woman with the long brown braid tosses the cap off her own head. The girl dances in a parking garage. She gestures at the two women. The other four women join. The six women make peace through their bodies. The girl makes peace through her body with the six women. Somehow the second cap has appeared again, and the girl gives the baseball cap to the first woman who lost her baseball cap in the aisle of canned vegetables.
Women are bumping fists. A middle aged white man pushes a cart of groceries. Women are dancing like robots. Women are spinning in unison on the floor. Women are posing like hulks. Women are nodding their heads. More middle aged men push more carts of groceries. The women and girl are running in slow motion. They are running toward the streets.